Adolescent Self

Unfortunately, for those individuals who did not use direct coping strategies but instead used the kind of coping that distances ones thoughts, emotions, and physical presence from the stressor (e.g., denial and wishful thinking) or disengages completely (e.g., escape and emotional numbing) to cope with discrimination stress tended to have lower self-esteem.

Consequences/Effects of Low Self-Esteem

A number of studies have shown that low self-esteem is predictive of negative outcomes. Parker et al. (2005) found that girls and adolescents with low self-worth reported the greatest jealousy of friends and that a reputation for being jealous of friends was associated with aggressive behavior and other peer adjustment difficulties, including loneliness.

Donnellan et al. (2005) found a link between low self-esteem and externalizing problems such as aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. The authors cited Rosenberg (1965), who suggested that low self-esteem weakens ties to society and weaker ties to society decrease conformity to social norms and increase delinquency.

Other research has linked low self-esteem to substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation (Donnellan et al., 2005; Rew, 2005).

Change in Self-Esteem and Rerouting of Possible Consequences

But what of adolescents who have authoritarian or neglectful parents and feel outside the “in-group”? Are they doomed to have low self-esteem and a higher probability of antisocial behavior?

The results of the study by Edwards and Romero (2008), described earlier, indicate otherwise. Adolescents who used direct coping strategies to deal with the stress of discrimination and thereby decreased the effect of discrimination on self-esteem did not follow the poor early environment-low self-esteem-negative outcome sequence. These children would be considered resilient. Rew (2005) identified resilient children as those whose coping mechanisms and cognitive styles protect them from adverse outcomes in spite of poor early environments (such as those with parental discord, criminality or psychiatric disorder). She also listed some of the qualities within the individual that make for resilience:

Temperament (affectionate, alert, responsive)

Sense of humor

Having self-care strategies

Internal locus of control

Religious beliefs and activities

Skills (athletic, artistic, academic)

Early communication

Engages in extracurricular activities


Takes care of younger child or pet

Werners (1993) well-regarded Kauai longitudinal study also argues against a predetermined sequence of environmental hazard leading to low self-esteem leading to poor adjustment.

Werner found that most individuals in a multiracial cohort of children who were exposed at an early age to environmental hazards became competent, caring adults. Werner used the term protective factors to explain her findings. (Rutter — cited by Rew (2005) — defined protective factors as those “influences that modify, ameliorate, or alter a persons response to some environmental hazard that predisposes to a maladaptive outcome” (p. 203). Some of the relevant protective factors are:

Caring adults (teachers, pastors, church members)

Those who exhibit prosocial values and behaviors

Value placed on individuals contributions to the community

Access to resources such as health-care facilities

Normative expectations

Positive role-modeling by adults

Clear and consistent boundaries

Werner concluded her article with a sentence that seems appropriate here: “The individuals in our study who overcame the odds and grew into competent and caring adults . . . told their life stories . . . without rancor, but with a sense of compassion and, above all, with optimism and hopefulness.”


Donnellan, M.B., Trzesniewski, K.H., Robins, R.W., Moffitt, T.E. & Caspi, A. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological Science, 15, 328-335.

Edwards, L.M. & Romero, A.J. (2008). Coping with discrimination among Mexican descent adolescents. Marquette University Education Faculty Research and Publications. Retrieved from fac/59.

Krayer, A., Ingledew, D.K. & Iphofen, K. (2008). Social comparison and body image in adolescence: a grounded theory approach. Health Education Research, 23. 892-903.

Martinez, I & Garcia, J.F. (2008). Internalization of values and self-esteem among Brazilian teenagers from authoritative, indulgent, authoritarian, and neglectful homes. Adolescence, 43, 19-29.

Parker, J.G., Low, C.M., Walker, A.R., & Gamm, B.K. (2005). Friendship jealousy in young adolescents: Individual differences and links to sex, self-esteem, aggression, and social adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 41, 235 — 250. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.41.1.235

Rew, L. (2005). Adolescent health: A multidisciplinary approach to theory, research, and intervention. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Robins, R.W. & Trzesniewski l “aff-2,” K.H. (2005). Self-esteem development across the lifespan. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 158-162. doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00353

Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent.

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